How Games Terrify Players – The Forest Case Study!

The Forest

What is is that this game has that keeps be both terrified and engaged at the same time?

Games have the ability to reach deep into your mind and twiddle about with the soft warm grey lumpy bits with increasing enjoyment, Developers now seem to plan games around this process entirely being the focal point of their new game.

The Forest has this in spades

Imagine how you would act in a terrible and extraordinary situation such as a plane crash on a tropical island? This is the stuff of fantasy for some and horror for most – The Forest has worked this out and pile drived into the players mental landscape the terror of this entire process and its done something that no game has done since Aliens vs Predator, it scared the hell out of me.

I mean PROPERLY scared me to the point I jumped out of my chair entirely terrified with my brain pressing the ‘fight or flight’ squishy bits of my brain.

Let me explain what happened….

The Forest as mentioned previously is a game which sets you as the survivor of a pretty nasty plane crash where you see your son being carried away (unknown if he is alive or dead) by the local tribe before you can react.

You arise and are sent into the world with sod all else to protect yourself than a airplane fire axe and a knowledge you have to survive and rescue your son.

SO for my own experience of this game, I had built a pretty decent base and had already seen off some of the tribe when they dared come too close to me. I had no idea about anything to do with the game, having not read the forums or anything around how it works I decided to go at the enemy directly and go search the caves under the island.

Armed with flares, axes, a torch and quite a bit of courage, I venture into the caves.

At first I am extremely confident, I can see perfectly well and quickly dispatch some enemies with some rigged Molotov cocktails, “that was easy” I say to the air in general and venture deeper into the depths of the cave. Soon the light from my flare cuts out and I switch to the torch.

After some time crawling along the damp floor I enter into a huge cave, so big the light doesn’t reach the cave walls at all. If this wasn’t enough to freak me out, what was on the floor was….. strange mutated foetuses of miss born babies liter the floor, this startles me enough to run to the wall I can see and gather my thoughts, as I do this I realise suddenly that there is something on the roof of the cave, dozens of bodies of my fellow crash survivors are strung up by their feet and all dead, hanging from the roof like slabs of meat. I then notice some are in the state of being hacked to bits likely to feed this tribe.

This is the queue point for my flight from the cave and I turn quickly to find the entrance only for the incredible power of ‘narrative’ to make my torch flicker and instantly die…….Darkness surrounds me.

I instantly reach for my lighter, my trusty, reliable lighter…… light returns to the cave and I can see a couple of meters in front of me. I feel my way back to the entrance of the cave and start to get ready to sneak away when I hear a strange noise… it doesn’t sound anything evil or mutant like, it sounds like maybe a survivor?! I stop and start sneaking around the edge of the cave looking desperately for what made the noise, I wish I could call out, is it my son? Is he still alive?!

Filled with so many questions I head into the middle of the cave in the hope that someone is still alive and see a flicker of movement ahead of me. I ready my axe and creep forward.

What happens next is the lighter goes out, it goes out dropping me into total black and I desperately try to relight it over and over until eventully light streams back in and what I see in front of me….. is not my son…..its not even…. Human. It strikes, I fall to the floor before im able to swipe my axe and the darkness takes me.

What I saw terrified me to the point of extreme reaction and I lept out of my chair and ran out of the room, never before has a game done that to me so that is why I will forwever be a fan of The Forest.